After ending his December Afognak blacktail deer hunt on a beautiful day, my new hunting buddy Frank was lucky to get out of camp just before the storm hit. Trading spots with him was Wayne Farnsworth, and even though the weather was turning fast, we took it in stride. The north end of Afognak is covered in big timber, looking much like coastal Washington or Oregon. When the weather gets bad, the deer head for the thick forest, and hunting can still be good if you get in there after them.
Wayne came to finish his Super Slam (taking every big-game animal in North America), and wanted to do it with a bow. So that afternoon we started pushing peninsulas and choke points, hoping to nudge a buck within bow range for Wayne.
The second spot we tried was a location our outfitter Luke had seen good bucks earlier in the season. After Luke & Wayne got set up, I worked my way around the peninsula slowly, to gently push any deer out there back down the trail to the main part of the island. There didn’t end up being any bucks there, but a fawn walked up and stopped merely feet from Wayne, never even seeing him! Unfortunately, the rest of the day was a bust, so we headed back to the lodge to regroup.
The next morning the weather hadn’t improved a lick, and we decided to do some still hunting. Luke and Wayne got dropped off in a bay behind the lodge. Guide Josh Randall dropped me off on the other side of the bay, suggesting that I hike over into the next bay, working through some pockets that were protected from the high winds. I worked my way up, around, and through the woods, nearly all sound drowned out by the rain. Before long, I walked up on a bedded fawn. When she jumped up, I froze, and not having seen me, the deer walked right up to me. It got so close I was actually able to smack it on the butt!
After that, I was constantly walking up on deer, often seeing them within 30 yards before they were aware of my presence. I almost stepped on a doe that was bedded under a log, and I think it surprised me as much as her when she exploded out of her bed.
I hadn’t seen any bucks yet, but then I came over a rise and saw a big buck feeding just 10 yards below me.
I normally would have just hammered him, but I thought I could get him on film. As I fumbled with the video camera he walked behind a tree, and ended up spooking. He hesitated at about 40 yards and I snapped off a shot. But I missed. Looking back, it was a shot I probably shouldn’t have taken.
I swallowed my pride and kept hunting, hoping to run into another buck in the fast fading daylight. I had one last big hill to climb before the final jaunt down to the beach where Josh was waiting. I saw a fork horn buck, but I didn’t have time to shoot him and drag him over the top of that hill, so I passed. As I was making my empty handed descent, I heard something above and behind me. I eased on, and soon saw a doe and fawn walking down to me. Movement caught my eye to the left, and the buck I previously passed on had come over the hill and was walking down past me at 20 yards.
Strike two was all he got, and I quickly put a 6.5mm Hornady SST behind his shoulder and he dove nose first into the gully below. After some pictures and and knife work, it was a quick drag down to the beach just in time to catch the boat.
Although most of us like to avoid hunting in foul weather, it can provide a totally different and exciting type of hunting. Once you resign yourself to getting soaked, it’s a blast. I saw a lot of deer, and am very glad I didn’t play the fair-weather hunter.
See more from my trip to Afognak Island last month:
Live Hunt: Fishing, Hunting and Trapping on Afognak Island
Live Hunt: Return to Afognak Island
Hunting In Brown Bear Country: How Not to Get Mauled
The Right Caliber for Brown Bears